Welcome to weird, mystical world where we are now permitted to get rid of expired information. I phrase it like that because we live in a world where we are permitted to dispose of information, but never automatically.
How many hours are lost reviewing information in order to determine if it is okay to remove? How much information is kept because we are unsure? Why do we even need to get rid of information?
That last question is easy to answer and not in the way you expect.
When talking about why to dispose of old information, there are two standard answers.
First, it will reduce risk. If we don’t have the information, we can’t produce it in court. The costs to produce evidence during discovery will be reduced and potential “smoking guns” are less likely to exist.
Second, it will save IT money. Think of all that storage that will be freed to be used to store other information. There will also be less spent in backup costs. IT will love it.
The issues with these reasons is that the first plays on the fear of legal action, which may not happen. The second is about cutting costs in IT. IT is already cutting costs which is requiring them to focus on innovation and efficiency. If you promise to cut storage costs by 20%, that will just be added on top of their existing budget cutting requirements.
The bigger problem is that both reasons focus on reducing costs. How about reasons that drive productivity and revenue?
Reducing the Haystack
When you pile up a lot of information, it takes more and more effort to gain value from it. Systems run slower. Searches take longer. The odds of finding the wrong information increases. Faith in the systems decrease. Complaints increase. People begin bypassing the system.
I’ve seen it happen.
Once the complaints start IT scurries behind the scenes to scale the application and improve the performance so that people don’t have time to get coffee while conducting a search (I’ve seen systems that slow). This begins a race that may never end to keep performance at “acceptable” levels before people abandon it completely.
Even if performance doesn’t suffer and people are able to access the system normally, the increasing number of information to wade through to find the right information continues to increase. Metadata helps, but even that fades in usefulness as the consistency of metadata use is sketchy in most organizations.
Timestamp information usually helps but it is rare that someone correctly remembers when information was created if it wasn’t tied to an event. Even then, if it is an annual event, the correct year becomes tricky. People simply aren’t as good as tracking time as they think they are.
All of this leads to time wasted trying to find a simple piece of information. This is time that could be spent being productive. When increased productivity is mentioned, people immediately think about reducing staff costs. That is the opposite of what can happen.
Maybe the increased productivity creates the time needed to launch a new product or service? People can tackle that innovative project that everyone has been discussing over coffee for years. These efforts can lead to increased revenue on top of the increased efficiency already realized.
Time spent not hating the system also improves morale, which has a lot of benefits across the board. That leads to improved retention, customer service, and productivity.
Think on that. Removing old, unneeded information, can create a better work environment, increase productivity, and encourage innovation.
Why aren’t you managing your information from creation to expiration?